Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Does everyone believe something?

Anthony asks whether ‘that it will rain next week’ is something. The quotes are scare quotes, but I could rephrase his question using real quotes. Does the noun phrase “that it will rain next week” name anything? And if so, what kind of thing is it? Is it located in space? Indeed, is it located in time? If I say that grass is green today, and you say the same thing tomorrow, is what you say tomorrow numerically identical with what I say today? Is the object of saying, stating, thinking, believing etc. a timeless eternal object, located nowhere in space itself? Is that Platonic idea consistent with nominalism?

I'm not sure a logician needs to worry about questions like these. A logician is worried about whether an arguments like

Everything said by Tom is true
That snow is white is said by Tom
That snow is white is true

or
Tom believes that snow is white
Tom believes something

are valid.  And surely they are.  If Tom believes that snow is white, then the simplest answer to the question of what 'that snow is white' refers to is simply that it is what Tom believes. Why bring space and time into it?

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24 Comments:

Blogger J said...

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12:53 pm  
Blogger J said...

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2:46 pm  
Blogger J said...

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2:49 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> If Tom believes that snow is white, then the simplest answer to the question of what 'that snow is white' refers to is simply that it is what Tom believes.

I think that's a reasonable statement. Although, I think it would be more accurate to say that 'that snow is white' is an attribute of Tom's belief, not Tom's belief itself. (I know, I earlier came up with "propositions are beliefs" (which I stated as a tentative theory), but on further consideration I think it is better to say that propositions are attributes of beliefs.)

But when we start talking about future contingents, things start getting ambiguous.

Does that it will rain tomorrow mean that it necessarily will rain tomorrow? If so, then we get into the situation where we might say "Yes, you said yesterday that it will rain today. And it is raining today. But you were wrong. It was not necessary. If X had happened, it wouldn't be raining."

Does that it will rain tomorrow mean that it contingently will rain tomorrow. If so, then wouldn't we get into the situation where we might say "Yes, you said two days ago that it will rain yesterday. And it did not rain yesterday. But you were right. It was contingent. The contingencies just weren't met."?

Is there some other possibility I'm missing?

>> Why bring space and time into it?

By saying that 'that snow is white' refers to what Tom believes, you have brought space and time into it (assuming there is a Tom somewhere in space and time, anyway - if there isn't a Tom, well then 'what Tom believes' is just a figment of your imagination).

>> I'm not sure a logician needs to worry about questions like these.

In the same way that a mathematician need not worry about whether or not numbers exist (and if so, where). It's still an important question.

3:11 am  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> A logician is worried about whether an arguments like [...] are valid. And surely they are.

I'm tempted at this point to ask you to define "valid" in terms of "valid argument".

Is this argument valid?

Everything said by Tom is true.
1+1=2.

How about this one?

Snow is white.
A is A.

[Rolls eyes]

3:32 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

A valid argument is one where the premisses cannot be true with the conclusion false.

>>
Everything said by Tom is true.
1+1=2.
<<

Since the conclusion cannot be false, the premisses cannot be true with the conclusion false, and so the argument is of course valid.

12:39 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>> I think it would be more accurate to say that 'that snow is white' is an attribute of Tom's belief, not Tom's belief itself.
<<

So if Tom believes that snow is white, and Carol believes that snow is white, are they believing the same thing or not? I.e. If what Tom believes is an attribute of him (or his belief) and what Carol believes is an attribute of her (or of her belief) than what they believe are different things, unless an attribute of Tom can be the same as an attribute of Carol.

But surely they believe the same thing?

12:43 pm  
Blogger J said...

Yes as textbook definition but for those who never bothered with a syllogism it won't mean much. Anyway, in propositional logic, you use valid argument forms, and you get valid arguments (conclusion follows from premises), regardless of the truth of premises. P->Q, P /Q.

(enlightenment, Ock.)

4:17 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>Does that it will rain tomorrow mean that it necessarily will rain tomorrow? If so, then we get into the situation where we might say "Yes, you said yesterday that it will rain today. And it is raining today. But you were wrong. It was not necessary. If X had happened, it wouldn't be raining."

Does that it will rain tomorrow mean that it contingently will rain tomorrow. If so, then wouldn't we get into the situation where we might say "Yes, you said two days ago that it will rain yesterday. And it did not rain yesterday. But you were right. It was contingent. The contingencies just weren't met."?
<<

I didn't follow your argument, Anthony.

7:30 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

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9:57 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

Awesome, so the following is a valid argument for the Riemann hypothesis.

My name is Anthony.
The real part of any non-trivial zero of the Riemann zeta function is 1/2.

And it's a sound argument too!

10:00 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

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10:51 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

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11:03 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

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11:13 pm  
Blogger J said...

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1:06 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

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3:46 pm  
Blogger J said...

whatever "belief" is. Which is to say any premise with the word "belief" in it should be considered meaningless (until proven otherwise).

Ock. sounding rather ..Fregean again (tho' one might ask...where is the Pythagorean theorem Frege was fond of invoking? hint: your brain).

Speculation (this is philosophy isn't it): the naive platonist (often religious, but not always in phil.-land) may be every bit as confused as the naive materialist E.g. Billy Vallicella, who routinely invokes "these stupid naturalists" who just don't know the truth about the verities, Nous, innate Mind etc. (Now BV's mumbling again about what he takes to be David Armstrong's point on "Truthmakers". How about "the gasoline in your car will ignite in the cylinders tomorrow"" Play-to?)

Most thinking humans are aware that religious people insist a ghost-soul resides in the mind, that all truths are transcendent, innate, etc. It's not that profound. The immaterialist simply refuses to confront obvious facts--ie, the external bio-chemical world (and his own needs for water, food, etc). And he refuses to consider a middle ground (perhaps immanence of a sort) between the ghost world and brute matter.

For that matter, Vallicella & Co are at best ersatz platonists, zionist-platonists, aka phonies. The Meno is not compatible with Ayn Rand or Mussolini (and BV was a Randian until a few years back)

4:03 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> Which is to say any premise with the word "belief" in it should be considered meaningless (until proven otherwise).

Why?

4:15 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

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4:48 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> Which is to say any premise with the word "belief" in it should be considered meaningless (until proven otherwise).

How can you prove anything? How do you know when something has been proven?

4:49 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> So if Tom believes that snow is white, and Carol believes that snow is white, are they believing the same thing or not?

If I am eating a hamburger, and you are eating a hamburger, are we both eating the same thing or not?

If I am nervous, and you are nervous, are we both experiencing the same emotion?

If I have 5 apples, and you have 5 apples, do we both have the same number of apples?

I'm reading a copy of "The Great Gatsby". You're reading a different copy of "The Great Gatsby". Are we both reading the same thing?

Or, to answer your question directly, yes, they both believe the same thing. But their beliefs are not the same entity.

>> But surely they believe the same thing?

I think you've gotta be careful with calling a proposition a thing, but so long as you keep in mind that propositions are abstract, and not concrete, sure, they believe the same thing.

5:08 pm  
Blogger J said...

Maybe take your first real college writing course, "Ant." and ...try to pass off essays with endless hypothetical questions. Then when you flunk because of the endless "porques?" take it again, omit the ????s, until you get it right.

And then finding time look at the wiki on your first syllogism. And ...the mysterious "modus ponens"

6:30 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> Maybe take your first real college writing course

Responding to Internet Trolls 101?

2:03 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>Responding to Internet Trolls 101?

Stop feeding trolls then.

On Anthony's point about the identity of beliefs and propositions, more at some point. I think we have had enough metaphysics for one week.

2:18 pm  

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